I went over to the local high school today to take a photo of this year’s valedictorians for the local newspaper (I’m the editor). There were seven this year.
All were bright, pretty, bouncy young ladies, and all arrived exactly on time, and were everything a parent could want in a child. They were clearly all “winners.” The whole bunch was accustomed to being the best. But here they were, in a seven-way tie for the valedictorian title.
I asked them why there were so many, and one replied that the school has a policy to let everyone with a GPA of 4.0 and above be a valedictorian. This is nothing new for the high school, but usually there are two or three. A few years back, there were five, and I thought that was a bit much. But seven? That’s a first.
One girl in particular asked me quietly after we were done with the photo how the story would be presented. Like, would they be ranked from highest GPA on down. I told her that no, they’d all be lumped together. She looked a little disappointed, but nodded her head.
I’m guessing that was the girl with the highest GPA of them all. The true valedictorian. The rest – a nice group of six salutatorians. But there should only be one valedictorian. The valedictorian is the student who has the highest GPA and greatest academic achievements, and has worked her or his butt off to be able to claim that honor. And in this case, only to have to share it with six others. How is this fair, unless all seven had the exact same GPA? Clearly, they did not, if this one girl asked me if the actual rank would be mentioned. Turns out, she is the only one who got a true life lesson: Life is not fair. And that is the cold, hard truth.
I’m sure the high school intended to honor all their high achievers, but there’s no harm in letting the true winner win. They’d be giving the students a valuable life lesson, maybe one of the most valuable of all: Everybody doesn’t get to win. This isn’t T-ball, this is real life. And in real life, sometimes you win, and sometimes you lose. Winning is great, but losing is an important lesson too. You have to learn to absorb defeat and bounce back. Keep trying. Win the next time out of the gate.
In real life, one person gets the job, and the rest don’t. One person chooses one spouse (usually) and all the others don’t get to wear the ring. One person wins the contest, and one does not. Someone is the fastest, smartest, most innovative, best, biggest and brightest. And the others are not. This is something we all have to learn to deal with to truly be successful in life.
We can’t all win, or get the job, or the guy, or the crown. We just can’t. This is part of growing up. This is part of adulthood. Frank Sinatra even sang about it: When I find myself lyin’ flat on my face, I pick myself up and get back in the race — that’s life.
Winning and losing. And prevailing anyway. That’s life. And everybody doesn’t get to win.